More Rural Physicians Are Spending Time on Emergency & Urgent Care

A group of emergency phyisicans

A recent report by the American Academy of Family Physicians found that approximately one out of every 15 family physicians spends as much as 80 percent of their time in emergency or urgent care, and this figure is even higher in rural areas. Yet, in many ways, these findings aren’t altogether surprising. Physicians who practice in more isolated areas, such as rural communities, tend to provide a wider range of healthcare services, with specialization less common than in urban environments. As many as one-half to two-thirds of all physicians in rural areas are family physicians.

Emergency Medicine Certification Through the BCEM, an ABPS Member Board

At the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS), through the Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM), we are pleased to offer family physicians with substantial experience working in emergency departments the opportunity to pursue board certification in emergency medicine, even if they completed their ACCGME or AOA residencies in another primary care discipline. We recognize that rural physicians are often called upon to dedicate their careers to emergency and urgent care to address the needs of their communities, and we believe these specialists with substantial experience deserve the opportunity to demonstrate their mastery of this essential specialty. By becoming board certified by the ABPS, these family practice physicians who practice in our rural emergency departments will also have more opportunities to connect with fellow Diplomates, pursue CME, and provide even better care to their diverse patient base.

Career Emergency Physicians Play a Critical Role & Should Be Recognized

There is a distinct shortage of board-certified emergency medicine physicians in the United States, and this shortage is particularly significant in areas outside of urban centers. As a result, family physicians tend to fill the workplace gap, and these men and women deserve the opportunity to be recognized with board certification. Furthermore, board certification legitimizes the physician’s experience and expertise in emergency medicine, makes them more marketable to potential future employers, and can provide significant insurance incentives for staffing EM physicians.


Eligibility Requirements for BCEM Certification

At the American Board of Physician Specialties® (ABPS), we recognize that physicians with significant emergency department experience should have the opportunity to become board-certified in emergency medicine if they have completed a residency in a primary care specialty like family medicine or internal medicine. The Board of Certification in Emergency Medicine (BCEM), a member board of ABPS, upholds some of the most stringent eligibility standards in North America. These standards require primary care physicians to complete an accredited residency and accumulate at least five years and 7,000 hours of full-time emergency room practice. Candidates must also provide documentation of their case experience. To qualify for BCEM certification, candidates can follow one of these paths:


  • Finish a residency in emergency medicine that’s accredited by ACGME, AOA, RCPSC, or CFPC.
  • Complete a residency in family practice, internal medicine, pediatric medicine, or general surgery, plus have at least five years and 7,000 hours of emergency medicine work.
  • Complete a residency in one of the primary care specialties mentioned above and then a 12- or 24-month emergency medicine fellowship approved by the BCEM.

You can find a list of BCEM-approved fellowships here.

The BCEM Examination Process

The BCEM certification exam includes a written section of multiple-choice questions and an oral exam, both reflecting a thorough practice analysis of essential topics and knowledge in emergency medicine. Candidates must first pass the written exam, available at testing centers across the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico, before they can proceed to the oral exam held in Tampa, Florida.

BCEM certification is valid for eight years, expiring on December 31 of the eighth year.

For more information about the certification process, the benefits to pursuing board certification in emergency medicine, and our various eligibility requirements, contact us today.

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House of Delegates & Annual Scientific Meeting
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June 10-15, 2022
Patient Care Is Our Priority

Medical organizations throughout North America understand that our rigorous certification standards prove that ABPS Diplomates are capable of delivering the best patient care possible.

On October 18, 2007, President George W. Bush released Homeland Security Presidential Directive 21 (HSPD-21), calling on our nation, among other initiatives, to “collectively support and facilitate the establishment of a discipline of disaster health”. It is a great testament to the wisdom and foresight of the American Board of Physician Specialties that it immediately set to work and created, within the short span of only one year, an educational blueprint and set of certification examinations, both written and oral, for a new subspecialty of disaster medicine—and it is why I chose to be part this vital initiative and this wonderful organization. This is but one of the many innovative programs initiated by the American Board of Physician Specialties over the years, and why I am proud to support its work on behalf of our nation’s public health.

Art Cooper, MD
Disaster Medicine
When the American Board of Physician Specialties offered to host the American Board of Integrative Medicine, ABPS became a landmark organization working to move medicine into the twenty first century. Certifying physicians who have completed rigorous academic training in Integrative Medicine ensures that the field of Integrative Medicine will continue to develop academically, clinically, and professionally. The leadership of ABPS continues to impress me - they are diligent in constantly innovating to provide certifications for physicians who want to advance their careers and their areas of expertise. I am honored to be a part of this organization.

Ann Marie Chiasson, MD
Integrative Medicine
There are many ways board certification advances a physician career. ABPS Board examination verifies your accuracy, precision, and reflects your mastery of your residency training verifying your expertise. ABPS Board certification demonstrates your level of expertise beyond your practice experience, primary education degrees, and training which are necessary for insurance reimbursement and practice privilege requirements. Attaining your ABPS Board Certification will clarify your purpose, secure your practice growth, and expand into leadership positions. Board certification can serve as an indication of a physician’s commitment to medicine, beyond the minimal standards and competency of training, their measurement to quality of care, and attaining an award for excellence.

Chris Kunis MD
Internal Medicine
When I think historically, advancement in medicine and patient safety and care has been driven by the diversity of people and scientific thought. That’s what I found at the ABPS and more. For over 60 years that is just who we are. I found a physician certifying body that provides a choice and voice to all physicians ensuring that patients are always placed first.

Jerry Allison, MD
Emergency Medicine
When I decided to pursue a full time role as a physician executive it was important to me to obtain additional professional training, education and work experience. Board certification through the ABPS in Administrative Medicine is validation of my efforts and a demonstration of dedication to professional development. We need more physicians to become full time health care executives, knowing there is a board certification option in Administrative Medicine encourages physicians to take the leap from full time clinical practice to healthcare organizational leadership.

Richard Paula, MD
Administrative Medicine
The American Board of Physician Specialties has provided me with the opportunity to demonstrate mastery of internal medicine through board certification. As a hospitalist, board certification is an expected credential, and hospitals recognize the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS) as one of the three standard credentialling bodies for Internal Medicine. Additionally, the ABPS has helped me develop leadership skills as a Board member and Committee Chairperson. ABPS has also helped me sharpen critical thinking skills as a test question developer and reviewer. The Allopathic (MD) and Osteopathic (DO) physicians in the ABPS are lifelong learners and frequently pursue multiple board certifications. I enjoy the camaraderie of my peers in ABPS.

Loren Jay Chassels, DO
Internal Medicine